Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Altar

I had the opportunity to preach to the youth on the 26th. I normally hate preaching at the church I'm based out of, but I love kids so I went at it with the intent I would anywhere else: To deliver a message I knew was from God, specifically for them.

The message was about the Altar. Man, what a broad topic! There are literally hundreds of angles you could come at this from, but the angle I wanted was simple: We as Christians have the amazing chance to put ourselves on the altar, which is a place that exists out of time and space in our hearts, and allow God to transform us, heal us, and get rid of crap that has attached itself to us. The altar is a message of transformation, of forgiveness, of grace. Basically, the altar encompasses the whole of the Christian faith, but specifically the connection with God that forges genuine inner renewal.

But as complex as what I just wrote might sound (due to bad writing!), the altar is more about desire than anything. I want to see our entire church, adults and youth, with a desire for God. And I want to see that desire come out in services. I want our physical altars to be flooded with people seeking a God moment. I want the front of our church to be flooded with believers seeking a deeper walk with Christ. I want to see sinners at the altar crying out to God to save and chance them. I guess what I want to see, really, is raw, pure, motivated interaction with God. The altar is the place where bad theology goes away. It's the place where intentions are washed. It's a place that you can't teach.

Which is why we struggle. You can't teach the altar directly. You can show through example. But when you talk about it, when you've bathed in God's presence on the altar... talking about it seems like a fairy tale - and we're not good at writing those anymore.

God, show yourself to our students on the altar! Draw them to the ultimate altar - the cross!


Anonymous said...

I guess I would disagree with your assertion that the altar is central to the Christian faith. In fact, the altar was central to the Jewish faith represented in the first/second temple periods (OT/NT). However, the beauty of the cross was that rather than being centralized around the Jerusalem Temple Altar, Christianity was now centered around the person of the Crucified God.

It is true that we must be hungry for interaction with God, but altars and altar calls are far more individualistic in 21st cent. NA than in the scriptures of the NT. Instead of the place where bad theology is washed away, imo it is the place where bad theology happens.

How can we experience God in a communal sense? How can we experience life change in a communal sense? What does it look like for the NT people of God to experience God, and do our services at present reflect that?

Matthew Nowlin said...

Our services don't reflect the altar, honestly. If you read that the altar is the place at the front of the church, then I did a bad job saying what I was meaning - and I'll admit, this blog was hasty.

Rather, look to my ending phrase, that we have to draw people to the ultimate altar, which is the cross. That is central. Looking then to ourselves as the new temples (individual believers) and the temple being a direct conversion from the Jewish faith, as in the place God communes with his creation and dwells, and the typeology is even clearer.

Then you get to Romans 12:1 calling for us to offer ourselves as living sacrfices, and you can clearly see that "yes, the altar is relevent in the New Testament."

I always tell students that they can make an altar wherever they are and God will alter them on it. The altar is symbolic, and really it's just a way of saying "come on guys, commune with God. Focus on him intensely. Let him in!" It's nice though, because it's something that they can picture, it's something that you can use to convey a spiritual principle.

And if the altar is too individualistic, then we need to do a better job getting people on their altar.